Thoughts I Think About Rants, False Ghettos, and Misinformation Surrounding the Gay Romance Market

Mercury is retrograde, and so we are all writing and saying and misinterpreting and in general making ourselves and each other upset. This post is one of today’s offerings. (ETA: post appears to have been taken down, but of course there is a screenshot.) Wave at at Reviews by Jessewave is upset because books are submitted for review that contain on-screen heterosexual sex. “Graphic het sex” to quote accurately. This site has made it plain they don’t care for anything but romances featuring sexual contact between two males, and yes, there’s a case here for free speech, personal prerogative, and so on. Anyone has a right to be as broad or narrow in their tastes as they choose. I have no issue there. I might disagree with the tactic, but to each her own, mazel tov, etc.

This, though, I’m taking issue with.

 Why are M/M readers treated so disdainfully? Are we not on par with het romance readers? M/M romance has been around for a decade, so why can’t our authors get it right? Clearly we are not respected because if we were this wouldn’t happen, and so often. Would authors insert graphic gay sex scenes in het romances? Not f*****g likely, unless the book is a ménage or a bi romance, and do you know why? Two reasons:

1) They know that het romance readers would not tolerate this and would tell them to put their book where the sun doesn’t shine; and

2) They respect het romance readers so it wouldn’t even occur to them to include gay sex in a het romance. Definitely a double standard.

(The ***** are quotes. I would have cussed.)

For reference before I respond I need to quote this too:

 Turn this beat around and do this in het romances and you will get an earful and an angry uprising from your fans because het romance readers wouldn’t tolerate gay men screwing their brains out or other body parts  in their romances.

And from comment 8.1, the big, BIG important one:

We have reviewed many M/M romances with het side romances where the sex is not explicit. What we don’t review is M/M romances with full on page het explicit sex (oral, vaginal or anal). I think you will find that any het romance review site would not review books that contain explicit gay sex unless that site also reviews the entire range of erotic romances.

There’s a lot here. Let’s start with the easy misdirect.

Blogs and review sites which review primarily “het romance” do review romances with gay male (and lesbian and bisexual and transgender) romantic leads. I suppose these sites do review erotic romances as well, but it’s absolutely not their focus. Pretty much anywhere that’s a serious, big-time review site? They’re reviewing all flavors of the orientation rainbow.

I write gay heroes, and I have been reviewed in Romantic Times Magazine and The Library Journal, which are incredibly mainstream review sites. The Library Journal in particular is notable because this is the source, as one might assume, from which many librarians take their cue for orders. I’ve been reviewed in many other places as well: USA Today did a lightning review of Dance With Me on the Happily Ever After blog. I’ve been reviewed multiple times at Dear Author, and I’ve been reviewed with Marie Sexton at Smart Bitches Trashy Books, and Marie has been reviewed there twice. SBTB has reviewed several lesbian romances too. K.A. Mitchell has been reviewed in Publisher’s Weekly, which in case you didn’t know is seriously a fucking coup. She’s also been featured in Kirkus via Sara Wendell. K.A. Mitchell has won the reviewing Internet.

I’m a little afraid, frankly, to list all the not-exclusively gay romance blogs I’ve been reviewed at because I fear forgetting one. There have been a lot. You can go to my website and read them all. If you haven’t heard of some of them, you should check them out. Many, many wonderful offerings there. You can also plug in all their websites into the Alexa search tool and see their comparative web scores. I don’t have the full science on it, but I know it’s how publicists check ranks of blogs and review sites. Go ahead and plug in your favorites and see how they stack up.

A sampling of US scores (the lower the better):

Dear Author: 16,958

Smart Bitches Trashy Books: 43,287

Romantic Times Book Review: 46,588 (magazine subscribers are I think 400k, but I’m working from addled memory)

All About Romance: 40,124

Fiction Vixen: 56,121

Joyfully Jay: 422,033

Reviews by Jessewave: 317,480

The Armchair Reader (Cole Riann): 671,619

I didn’t list Elisa Rolle only because somehow she’s reading as in the 5,000s or is #13, depending on if I use her Dreamwidth or LJ and this page is a redirect to her others—I think that must be reading the blog host sites itself. Either that or Elisa, you need to charge for ads and quit your day job!

Those last three listings are blogs which describe themselves as m/m romance blogs. I listed three at random, so please forgive me if I did not list yours. I only wanted to give a sampling—feel free to enter your own favorite into the engine. Yes, there’s a spread of 100k points (that’s points, not people) between each one, but when you look at the rest of the blog world, in general one can say these blogs are on par with one another. These scores also fluctuate, and high traffic like a controversial blog post begins to alter the score, though I admit I don’t know by how much. Please feel free to put in my website and blog—they’re pretty low scores, and I’m totally cool with that, as my sites are there to serve my books not be a social hub. Toss your own in there. What the heck. Play around. Alexa is fun.

The point is, there are a lot of people reviewing romance of all flavors. More and more every day, in fact. I have yet to approach a blog that is not exclusively gay romance focused and receive anything but a warm welcome. Some are even excited. MANY find me before I can hunt them down, and that would include USA Today. I suppose somewhere there is a very conservative website or two that doesn’t want any gay cooties. That’s fine—I really don’t need them, thanks.The people who also want a narrow, focused selection of books can go there, and I hope they and the site owners are very happy together.

Any implication that blogs identifying themselves as m/m only are the only way to get reviews if one writes gay romantic protagonists is horse crap. Do not say, either, that K.A. and I don’t count because we have big names. My second published novel, Special Delivery, was reviewed by Dear Author and Mrs. Giggles. If you don’t know who Mrs. Giggles is, google. A lot of that will be authors angsting about how horrible and mean her reviews are. She reviews EVERYONE and she’s vicious. I found out I had a review because my email and phone blew up from friends freaking out because Mrs. Giggles had loved my book and that almost never happens. I stopped hearing them after “Mrs. Giggles read my book” because I was all flipped out. That was my second book, and it just up and happened. I do not have a magic hoo-ha or magic anything. I wrote my best book and I got lucky with exposure. This means you can do that too. There is no wall to stop you.

There is no wall about reviews, period. Maybe a decade ago. Maybe even five years ago. Not today.

Authors writing books with romantic protagonists can include any flavor of romantic pairings they wish to. I feel kind of silly addressing this, because I feel like I’m the idiot taking an Onion article seriously, but I’m willing to go there just so this is clear. Authors whose romantic protagonists are heterosexual can write side pairings with homosexual on-screen sex. I think you’ll find it’s rare to see, but I do in fact know that it happens. It’s rare not so much because of some cabal but because romance especially in the Big Six market is fiercely competitive and romantic stories with more than one romantic pairing at a time are a hard sell. But gay romance is alive and well in all reading circles, and the big shift to mainstream? It’s coming. The big gay wave is crashing on all manner of shores, even in my little Heartland—anybody thinking the entertainment industry, including books, isn’t trying to figure out a way to capitalize on that right now is kidding herself. Yes, there’s still some resistance, but oh, it’s coming.

Authors whose romantic protagonists are primarily homosexual can also mix and match. It’s called equality and parity and freedom of expression. It is totally okay for a reader or a blog to say, “I only want to read one kind of book.” I stand firmly beside anyone’s right to do this. I think it’s a narrow view, but it’s a valid life choice. Hey, I only read romance. Do what makes you happy. But the authors get the same pass. We can include it or not. We can write heterosexual pairings and homosexual and bisexual and trans* and the whole orgasmical enchilada. Nobody has to read it, but we can write it.

HOWEVER.

It is not disrespectful of authors to write the stories that they want simply because they are not the stories some people want to hear.

I’m having a hard time responding to this one, because…what else is there to say? The last time I looked, I was not chained to my desk with a penis gun pointed at my head telling me I had to write gay sex and nothing else. That said, I haven’t written any mix-and-match in awhile, but that’s mostly because the Etsey series is hard and the fantasy market is rough, and honestly lately I’ve had so much fun with the college-age gay boys I can’t do anything else. However, if I do write the sequel to A Private Gentleman, yes, readers will either have to endure Penny and Rodger getting together (and probably some additional girls and boys in there too)—or they’ll have to not buy that one. If I write the book with a bisexual man in it, yes, you might have to see some pussy. Or not read that one.

And it’s okay to get mad at me for this, but I’m not putting a warning on any book that says “gots pussy in it.” Ever.

I’ve had publishers that require stringent warnings, and while I’m not a fan, I don’t fight it because there are other fights to have. I REALLY hate Loose Id’s “situations that some readers might find objectionable: male/male sexual practices,” and I’ve wondered a lot if I should have fought for that one to be removed. But not even in the books with heterosexual sex or lesbian sex (Yeah, I did that!) are there warnings about cross-pollination. Because I don’t believe it’s necessary. I believe it’s sexist and crass and bad for our culture. I believe it fosters ghettos and sexism and homophobia and heterophobia or whatever. It’s not good in my book. If you disagree with me, its’ okay to disagree with me. You can disagree with me and still read my books or disagree so much you can’t go there anymore. Your right, your choice.

I will not, though, sit by and have this nonsense tossed around about how you can’t get reviewed if you mix orientations in your book. I mean, obviously this ignores ENTIRELY the whole menage subset, but I know they weren’t meant to be included. This is about somehow all authors of romantic stories with gay male protagonists wearing invisible shackles or being bound by some ritual code. This is ghettoization. This is false truth, false barriers, false reality.

I am not interested in a ghetto where I can only write one thing and am bound by one review site and one set of rules. Holy crap, I started writing gay protagonists because I wanted out of all those goddamned rigid structures. I write romances. The lovers happen to be gay men almost all the time. I don’t write that way because I have to or because of the penis gun. I do it because for whatever fucking reason it makes me happy. I mean, happy, so much so that when my shoulders ache and my neck literally has me seeing double and I can’t walk because my leg has a weird cramp and half of it is numb because my body is an unholy hot mess even on a good day—I write through that not because I have to but because it brings me great joy to do so. I write for people who want to read those stories. I’ve written all over the map, and I assume (in fact, I know) people don’t read the whole oeuvre. Well, some do, but most pick and choose. I’m so down with this in my website redo (not up yet, don’t go look) I’ve included a design feature so one can filter by series and subgenre.

It’s not disrespectful if sometimes I write about two girls kissing or a girl who was born a boy kissing a boy or a girl or both at once. Or if this roommate in the new book doesn’t end up with the girl I’m thinking he might and I decide I want to write him hooking up in his own story—if I do, it’s not disrespectful of me to do that. It isn’t if anybody does it.

It’s okay, though, to get frustrated if you clearly state that your blog only does one kind of book and people don’t follow the rules and submit others. It’s even okay to rant about it on your own blog. Your space. Do what you want.

It’s not okay to intimate to budding authors looking for intel that the other reviewers won’t play nice with them because the write gay, and it’s not cool to imply there are rules. There aren’t. Please pass it on.

I write romance with gay male protagonists.

When I describe what I write to people, I tell them I write romance. If they ask what kind or get interested, I tell them about it, and as a part of that I do explain that I write almost exclusively gay male romantic leads and protagonists. Why do I not lead by saying I write m/m romance? Because I am not different. Because I am not a separate category. I write contemporary romances. I write historical romances and fantasy novels and paranormal romances. I write erotic romances and sweet romances. (No seriously, this one will be sweet. Ish.) I am proud that my heroes are gay, but I am so proud of them that I want them to be compared right alongside all the other couples. I want romance equality up and down. I do not intend to stand along the side of the market and hope people come out and play. I am in that market. I work my ta-tas off in that market. I want readers of all types to come and read my work. Readers who only want to read gay male romantic protagonists are very welcome—90% of the time that’s me too. Nothing else quite satisfies. But yes, I want people who are the reverse to read me too, who only read some gay romance. I would say I want Big Six publishers to pick up gay romantic protagonists, but that has already happened.* The Big Six are very interested in gay romances. Mainstream reviewers are interested in gay romances.

I don’t mind the m/m label–unless m/m is going to start coming with rules and restrictions. If m/m is something limiting, if it is separate from the mainstream, that’s not what I write. If m/m is something that can’t play in the big kids pool, that’s not what I write.

I write romances. I write love stories. I write often very sexy and graphic love stories that take trucker fantasies and make them erotic and sweet at the same time. I write about fisting cowboys and have you emailing me through tears to tell me I wrecked you, it was so sweet and wonderful. I write from my heart and my toes and my eyeballs and anything else I can find to pour in. I write romances because I love them so much I cry when I think about my favorites.

There are no gay ghettos in romance except for the ones we make. There are no rules about what we can and cannot write. There are not walls on where we are reviewed. There is no ceiling on how high we can go—not unless we let ourselves or others put it there. Nothing is stopping me (or you) from being a New York Times bestseller that isn’t stopping a million other authors. Absolutely it’s not because my boys are gay. Is the climb up my professional sometimes a little harder, the road a little weirder? Yeah. But baby, that only makes it sweeter when victory happens.

No ghettos. No rules. Just you and me and our kindles and nooks and paperbacks and good times.

And occasionally pussy.

*I’ve read this book. You need to totally preorder this bitch right now.

111 Comments on “Thoughts I Think About Rants, False Ghettos, and Misinformation Surrounding the Gay Romance Market

  1. Very well said, Heidi. I read the review/blog and was stunned and disheartened. I agree, to each his own, but there is so much I want to say about it and I have to pull myself back. I’m afraid I can’t be very constructive in my criticism of the article. Thanks for putting it so eloquently.

    BTW….you know i love your writing….you put any couples you want together…I’ll continue to buy. I’m a multi-tasker-relationship reader. 🙂

  2. This is why I love your work. Your happiness with love shines through.

    “I write romances. I write love stories. I write often very sexy and graphic love stories that take trucker fantasies and make them erotic and sweet at the same time. I write about fisting cowboys and have you emailing me through tears to tell me I wrecked you, it was so sweet and wonderful. I write from my heart and my toes and my eyeballs and anything else I can find to pour in. I write romances because I love them so much I cry when I think about my favorites.”

  3. I’m still sniggering at the thought of a ‘penis gun’. I have this image of somebody standing over you smacking you around the head with a big dildo 🙂 As a reader, I hate being told there are ‘rules’. I’m contrary enough that when I read those sanctimonious reviews on GR, panni g a book because there is any non-mm content, it contains cheating, it doesn’t have an HEA, or even a HFN, ending, etc, I will buy it. I don’t want to read formulaic books that have been written according to someone else’s rules. I want to read about love and human experience. My only rule is the are no rules 🙂

    Sometimes I want something sweet, sometimes hot and dirty, sometimes I want angst and tragedy. There are times I want escapist fantasy and others that I want messy reality. I am so glad that there are authors like you who refused to be compartmentalised, who write from the heart and give us books that show all of life’s rich tapestry.

    Excellent post!

    • I would make a joke about household dildos, but my husband would have cardiac arrest because his mother is one of my biggest fans. So, dildos? I have no idea what you’re talking about. What are dildos?

  4. *applauds wildly*

    Romance is romance is romance. When I set up my SFR publishing house (yeah, I did that), I specifically didn’t divide into het, M/M and F/F. I accept them all right, and every variable there is, but I refuse to segregate. Because I do think there’s a tendency to ghetto certain genres, and it’s not good – for fiction or for culture.

    It’s time to stop dividing romance into flavours and blend everything together in one, hot and sexy smoothie.

    • “It’s time to stop dividing romance into flavours and blend everything together in one, hot and sexy smoothie.”

      This needs to be a bumper sticker or something. And well done on the no lines publishing.

  5. I’ve had some stick because until a year ago, I’d only written MF and MMF. I wrote my first MM and was suddenly told I had no right to think I could write gay stories because I was a writer of het ones. Er- what? But there does seem to be a group of people who are very ‘precious’ about gay romance and want to dictate the ins and outs – if you’ll excuse the expression. I sometimes feel there’s a club and I’m not in it. Like you, Heidi, I write what I like to write. I’ve written a few het stories where gay guys have graphic sex and they’re reviewed on straight sites. The warnings are on the bottle but I don’t mind about that. What I do mind is the idea that what I like to write and readers like to read, should be criticised because I’ve crossed some line I didn’t know was there.

  6. Mmm, not commenting on the whole thing since, well, my philosophy is, if you don’t like it don’t read it, no need to rant about that. I receive PLENTY of review requests and once checked the blurb, if I don’t like it, I politely reply (privately), no, thanks, appreciate the request but…
    I have a question though: is it that site listing me good? 😉 since I’m quite klutz with these things and didn’t manage to understand how it works, but if you said I was good, than thank you for the head up.

    • Elisa, you are too elegant and beautiful for this sort of nonsense. I’d expect nothing less. In fact it would break my heart.

      I’m not sure how the Alexa scores work exactly, but in any event, your scores were pretty crazy high. Let me plug them in here again for you.

      Okay, for http://www.elisarolle.com you had a score of 2,987,663 Traffic Rank in US: 768,44. That’s pretty crazy amazing since I think most people read you either on LJ or Dreamwidth and that site aggregates (feeds to the others), am I right? Your LJ and DW ones make you look like God though.

      LJ: Alexa Traffic Rank: 160 Traffic Rank in RU: 13
      Sites Linking In: 312,120

      That RU is Russia. You’re HUGE in Russia! HUGE! (Except it’s that high because it’s reading as Livejournal, which has a hubbed there. It doesn’t differentiate between the individual sites. See here: http://www.alexa.com/topsites/countries/RU)

      DW: Alexa Traffic Rank: 16,997 Traffic Rank in US: 5,455
      Sites Linking In: 7,503

      But again, that’s reading for Dreamwidth, not you in particular. So sadly there’s no way to get your score for anything but http://www.elisarolle.com

      If you ever DO want to move to a formal website, I’ll hook you up with my new web guy, but that will be pricey for a blog, so unless you’re wanting to do ads, I’d say stay where you are, beautiful lady.

      • well, just recently I discovered that my LJ is ranked 56 in, more or less, 9 million journals (LJ statistics…), so well, I think I’m famous in Russia 😉 maybe there is a market out there LOL, but well, for now I prefer to remain where I’m

        • Hurrah! I do think if we could accurately compare your site(s) you’d be sitting on the top of the pile elegantly like the queen you are. You’re famous to me, Elisa. xoxoxo

  7. As someone who is currently in the middle of my first two m/m WIPs (why yes, maybe writing one at a time would have been smart, why didn’t I think of that *months ago*?), can I just say thank you for your passion and your pride in what you do. I hope to one day sit alongside you on a historical romance panel and answer questions about research or plotting or getting The Call.

    • ❤ You are exactly who I had in mind when I wrote this. I got very techy at the idea of anyone still getting their feet wet thinking any of that bull puckey was truth. I had my village when I first started out in 1999. I really don't like it when ours gets divisive, but when it's so for no actual reason I will go Mama Bear.

      Sit beside me anytime, and introduce yourself if we ever meet. Apparently I'm too tall or something in person because people always write me after to say they were too scared to come up. I only bite when asked. Well, except my husband.

      WAIT. I do nothing but knit with my husband, Nina. Knitting and holding hands.

  8. *fist pumps* YES! Heidi you say all the things I’m thinking but can’t articulate any further than a pissed off AARRGGHH!! I will defend until the cows come home, Jessewave’s right to blog about what she wants to blog about, as narrow as she apparently needs it to be, but the language she uses to defend that choice is SO inflammatory, intolerant and judgmental that it makes my bile rise to do it. I wonder, if she replaced m/m sex with interracial sex if she’d see how awful she sounds?

    You know what? I’m an m/m reader and Jessewave certainly DOES NOT speak for me. I don’t think I’m alone.

    (A sequel to A Private Gentleman? I’m SO there!)

    • Well don’t hold your breath on APG2. I have so much on my plate right now I’m writing into 2015. But yes, I always meant to go in for Penny. She would be my homage to Tipping the Velvet. Except she really would have to hook up with Rodger.

      Love you, E, always. ❤

  9. I went to bed last night feeling sad about what I’d read. And chastened.

    So far I’ve written MM exclusively, and that’s how I’d describe my genre as a writer. I never dreamed that could be construed as excluding all the individually beautiful shades that make up the rainbow. I don’t want to be part of that particular club, thank you.

    Evaine puts into words exactly what made me uncomfortable about the post, and about how narrow minded I might appear if I don’t expand how I describe my genre.

    From now on I think I’ll just write romance.

    Thanks for writing this, Heidi.

    • I don’t mind being called m/m at all—for most of us it’s an easy categorization. But yes, I’ve made a distinct effort to say that I write romance or gay romance, because I feel it’s more inclusive.

      Honestly, this idea that we can’t all show up at RT or any not-exclusively-LGBT con and participate fully is bunk. I will be at RT next year and every year until my body makes it impossible. (I was even in drag last year.) I love GRL too, but it is NOT the only pond we can play in. Readers love us everywhere. I cannot tolerate this idea that we have to stay in the corner.

  10. I’m so glad I spotted this pop up on my twitter feed. This is such an excellent blog post. I read the other post this morning and was feeling really horrible about it. My first books aren’t even out yet and I’m already worrying about which bits are going to piss readers off because from what I’ve seen it’s a scary world out there once your words are released into the wild. The last thing I needed was something new to stress about 😉
    But your response here is awesome and full of wise words and you’ve cheered me right up, so thank you 🙂
    In my ideal world, writers should just be able to focus on writing good stories, and not about trying to fit their words in a box and find the right label for them.

    • If I were able, I’d run a forum for authors, but I’m barely able to keep up with what I’m currently doing. I strongly encourage all writers of romance including LGBT elements to join the Rainbow Romance Writers. Yes, you have to join the RWA first, but you don’t have to be American to do so, and you don’t have to be published. It’s total between the two about $125 a year, but it’s the kind of thing professionals do, joining organizations. We need more voices in RWA too, not just in a segregated chapter. We need to be all over, in locals and special interest chapters and the whole thing, and we need someone to run for board positions. That’s how real change happens.

      But there’s no ghetto. None. Only in your head. Please feel free to direct anyone to me who wants to say otherwise and I will happily hand them their ass, with a decade of experience and facts to back myself up.

  11. I want to stand on a stepladder and give you the world’s biggest hug. You are awesome, Heidi. Supportive and generous and talented.

    It’s funny, because my first published story, is of a gay hookup. My first novella? One bisexual male pairing, one gay male pairing and one m/f. I thought I was writing love stories that everybody would read and had no idea that I’d broken some Cardinal Rule of m/m romance. And I was terribly demoralized when Spice and Smoke did not do well in m/m circles. But I’ve moved on and continued to write what I love to write: people falling in love, regardless of their equipment, their orientation, their religion or their skin color. I don’t write for “het readers” or “m/m readers.” And I believe that somewhere, I’ll find an audience. It’s a big world out there. There’s no need for people to hide in corners, clutching their Kindles to their chests.

    And, just in general, fighting intolerance with intolerance and homophobia with misogyny is pretty much ass-backward. It serves no purpose, does not foster acceptance or change. It just continues to marginalize the subgenre — and that’s something no romance reader or writer should aspire to!

    • Baby honey, you gotta join RRW with us!!! Or are you there and just quiet?

      I do understand and respect the response of some readers, particularly gay men and bisexual women who when they first find gay romances want to close the curtain a minute and only read gay pairings for awhile, because some of it is a reaction to shedding unconscious exclusion in mainstream romance. That’s a reader thing, though, and it’s going to be on them and their communities to find the books they deem “safe.” It’s not author and publisher jobs to set those up.

      The misogyny is what truly disturbs me because it’s not even conscious. That’s the most dangerous kind of all.

      I miss you. Wish I were going to RWA!

  12. JesseWave’s post is stupid and vagina phobic. I’m not against labeling to inform readers a book contains certain content but there’s no need to use the word offensive or call it a warning.

    WARNING: VAGINAS. RED ALERT. ABORT!

    About the use of “gay romance” or just “romance” over m/m because it’s more inclusive. This is a nice idea, but I’m always looking for f/f and I have trouble finding it. If I browse the publisher web site and see only m/m and m-variations, I might give up before I get to any f/f. Often I assume there is no f/f to be found. This is from my experience of clicking gay or GLBT categories that are exclusively m/m.

    While it is true that gay romance subplots (or even main couples) are seen in mainstream books, that is only m/m pairings. Romance publishers are largely not interested in f/f or lesbian stories. I’ve been asked to remove a lesbian romance subplot from a Regency romance I wrote. This was five or six years ago, and the book was never picked up. Hopefully that wouldn’t happen today, but I wonder.

    Anyway, just throwing in my 2 cents about inclusion and labeling. I’m all for helping readers find what they want, and if that’s m/m with no vaginas, fine. But why carry on as if the description of female parts is offensive, disrespectful or disgusting (“impure” and “girl cooties”)? This attitude is insulting and harmful to women.

    • The lesbian romance issue is a whole ‘nother beast. I agree with you entirely that it needs a stronger presence. I think there are a lot of complicating factors: on an innocent level, female conflicts are more internal, so the books don’t always seem as flashy even when they are. I’ve read some that curl my toes. But the greater concern is the same in our society: we have been so well trained to view women as other, as a certain kind, a certain limitations.

      A good friend confessed when she heard about the plot of Special Delivery and someone said, “Why didn’t you just write it as a man and woman?” that she would be uncomfortable with a young girl taking off with a trucker. She understood that was a double standard but still couldn’t let herself go there. I don’t think this is because my friend is sexist: this is our culture. Women still cannot even be Secretary of State without their hair and makeup and clothes being the first reported instance.

      I think lesbian fiction has to be aggressive to get noticed, which is wrong. It’s going to be a longer slog, but it’s important. I completely agree with you.

  13. Well, and sometimes hilariously, said. I sort of inadvertently found myself in the middle of this as I review at JW, and I do agree with some of the points on both sides. Compared to a lot of the people in this middle of this, I’m relatively new to reading LGBTQ fiction in general (couple of years, maybe) so I’m still learning best practices. So your post laid some things out here very informatively.

    I write m/f books, but I have gay characters in mine…no sex as yet as I plan to give them their own books, but definitely loving exchanges, so this argument may affect me in the future. Interesting to see how everyone responds. I try to avoid penis guns, and I’ll look out for Warning: here be vaginas. Cheers!

    PS, I’m not sure why my spell check thinks vaginas isn’t a word. Apparently more than one vagina at a time is more than Chrome can handle.

    • LOL about the vaginas.

      Thanks for coming over here to comment and being so professional about it. As I said, anyone can have their opinions and preferences. But I’m very concerned about newer authors and would-be authors thinking some of that misinformation was true.

  14. I had to role my eyes about the idea of “warning labels” in MM, if say there is a straight sex scene or “girl cooties” appear in what is considered a MM romance. So do the same rules apply if there is a male on male action or women on women action or a menage love in a straight romance? Should there be a “warning label” then?

    From my experience as book blogger for over 6 years, most in the blogging review community are very open to reading all types of books. I’ve noticed more are very open to reading romances where the main couple are 2 men or even 2 women. As an author of both LGBT and straight romance, when I ask people if they would like to review my books, I mention the genre first, whether it’s historical, paranormal or whatnot and then will say my main couple is M/F, MM, FF or whatever pairing they might be. When I write a story, my concern is more how my characters fall for one another and if I can write a believable HEA. It doesn’t matter what gender my main couple is because to me love is love regardless of the gender of my couples.

    If a reader picks up a straight romance and has no idea there maybe a secondary story featuring a LGBT love scene or secondary romance, will the reader get upset as we’re led to believe from Jessewave’s post about straight sex in a MM romance?

  15. I absolutely love this post. Along with Aleks and Witt’s responses to that frustrating and inflammatory blog post.

    I love romance. I don’t care if my protagonists are gay, straight, bi, transgender, etc. I only care that their story is beautiful because love is beautiful. And the sex? Well it’s all hot 😉

    I have to tell you that LooseID’s disclaimer pisses me off too. I recently reviewed Tere Michaels Duty and Devotion and included the Goodread’s synopsis which included the disclaimer. I struggled with it and ended up keeping it there since I was uncomfortable editing the publisher’s words. But it’s still bugging me. That series is no more steamy or sexy than some het romance that we review and there is no disclaimer for those. How is that fair or equal? All it does is perpetuate the inequality we are fighting so hard against everyday. I hate to edit blog posts after they publish but I think I am going back and removing that disclaimer. There is no reason for its existence.

    Nay

    • I don’t include those warnings in my GR or website posts of the blurb (someone might have put them back on GR, I haven’t checked). I’m okay with rape, because yeah, I totally get that, but I even hesitate about the BDSM. Girl parts, however, never.

  16. Thank you! You put into words why that post made me uncomfortable, and so did Elaine. I write romances. So far I’ve separated my pairs by book but I’ve always felt like I was cheating a bit by not showing the “other” gendered characters in any sexual way other than mentioning they exist. The word ghetto inaction even came to mind, but I was never brave enough to say it. So I’m really glad people are talking about this. I was afraid the instigating article might actually represent some kind of prevailing view.

  17. What an amazing post and thank you so much for your insight and clarity. It seems so simple and yet…. some peeps just don’t get it. I remember the first book I read which introduced me to the beauty of gay romance. It was Long Hard Ride by Lorelei James. At the time I only read HET romance but only because I never knew the genre existed. Adding a gay on page sex scene didn’t offend me in the slightest and in fact I fell head over heels in love with Trevor and Edgar. Later when I read Rough, Raw and Ready, the female parts in my gay romance didn’t bother me at all. It was well written and the characters touched my heart. Period! All this or nothing is just a crock of.. well horse shit! Add girly parts to gay romance as long as it fits the story, add gay love into my HET stories as long as it fits the story. Trust me I won’t be offended and anyone offended by a well written story, no matter what parts the characters have or who they share their parts with, well… yeah whatever, I’ll keep my snarky comment to myself. 🙂 ~hugs~ Jo

    • I could have written this. Long Hard Ride was also my intro to gay romance. Rough, Raw and Ready is a huge favorite of mine. Like you, I never knew non-het romance was available until then. I was so happy to find it.

  18. Pingback: A Wave of Nausea

  19. Love this post. I absolutely believe in inclusion and that romance can handle (and has) broadening couplings (*cough, and groupings) and representations without warning labels. Never underestimate readers.

  20. I’ve put a link to your blog on FB. The original post in question was bad enough – but then the ‘hurt feelings’ when people didn’t agree with its author made me wonder what she expected when, not for the first time she hosed the very people who provide her with books to review?? Without M/M authors there are no books and I dislike being ‘forced’ to write anything that doesn’t feel organic to me. I’ve had a few het scenes in my Phantom Lover series and M/M/F scenes. The publisher put tags for them, but I didn’t mind. I think love is love, and I embrace it in all forms.

  21. Warning labels are a badge of honor to me. I feel I’ve arrived when the publisher says “Warning, danger, death and horror, here there be tygers!” I still prize an email saying “We have changed the rules for submissions to this award because of your book. Several members of the committee were deeply disturbed.” I probably hang out with too many horror writers.

    I write what I please. If my hero wants to share a lady with his male lover, that’s his taste. If one of my heroes chooses to believe that women are demons sent to destroy men’s souls and his only safe refuge is a male lover, that’s his hangup. If I’d rather write steampunk lesbians fighting zombies than another boring BDSM contemporary? I do it and damn the sales differential.

    For me, Wave’s rant is a reminder that I need to double-check what I’m sending to one of my marketing outlets. Sure, there’s wall-paper style het sex in my latest piece. Orgy and kink shop, after all, but my heroes aren’t partaking. If they’re going to start rejecting books based on single sentence sexual encounters–“They walked past a pretty green-skinned girl riding her young man, while their master cracked his whip over both bodies”–then they are never going to be the best outlet.

    As for gay sex in straight books, two titles:
    The Mists of Avalon
    The Beauty Trilogy.

  22. Pingback: Thoughts I Think About Rants, False Ghettos, and Misinformation Surrounding the Gay Romance Market | Live Your Dreams....Read a Book!!!

  23. Having just finished my first book by Heidi Cullinan (and Marie Sexton). “Second Hand”, I can say that this book might have a male/male plot (or a male/not-quite-sure) but it is, in every sense, a romance. The body parts are not as important as the growing romantic relationship between the heroes. These authors can write, which is not something I can say for a lot of hetero-erotic romance. And yes, I write hetero-menage, and as a reward for a long day at the keyboard I am damn glad to find, and read, a book that is so well written. Kudos

    • Thank you so much! So glad you enjoyed Second Hand. Love this: “The body parts are not as important as the growing romantic relationship between the heroes.” SO true.

  24. I WISH I had a penis gun pointed to my head.

    My readers of The Original Sinners series weren’t expecting a male/male subplot in book two. But 99% of my readers (even those who’d never read M/M before) loved that plot and those characters. Fiction is fiction. It’s not real. Why shackle yourself? You can and should do anything you want in your books. Readers vote with their dollars. If they don’t like it, they don’t buy the next book.

    Thanks for a great post!

  25. I never thought of myself as a mainstream reader or reviewer. I read and review good stories, mostly romances and mostly erotic romances. I adore all romance and welcome it all on my blog. I never thought that to tell an author something couldn’t be in a story. I do hope that authors keep writing the stories they love, and I’ll keep reading them.

    • Yes, it’s one of those things where no term would be best, and honestly it should be “blogs which only review gay or LGBT books” and “blogs which review everything.”

  26. Mrs Giggles is a right bitch. She tore me a new hole or three. And that was for my het book. And I’m still incredibly fond of that review. Holes and all. Not many make it through unscathed. Congrats on that. And thank you for the voice on this issue. The right to review whatever you want and how ever you want, is the right of all reviewers. And I say carry on if that’s what one wants to do. But to shame authors for writing outside of the narrow confines of the CD jewel case is what bothered me. Don’t like it. Don’t read it. Don’t make me feel as if I’m committing some crime against humanity because I write something that you find offensive. As for me I was reading books like Valley of the Dolls and Peyton Place when I was a teen. My smut is fairly well rounded. And a sequel to A Private Gentleman ? yes please 🙂

    • I think established authors know enough to roll their eyes and get back to work, but it’s been made clear budding authors were taking this as frightening gospel.

      To a point we need to let nonsense and kerfluffles slide, but there was too much here for me to ignore. I’m glad it meant something to you.

  27. Thank you for putting into words which I could not formulate. I’m not a writer, just a simple reader of Romance.

  28. I speak for myself, for what I write, what I read, what I do and how I love. But you speak for me in this response because I never got to post. Online, I aim always to be non-confrontational – it’s a conscious activity, not just weediness – and I guess in many ways that’s lost me attention. I also get very VERY tired of being a punchbag because of it. Lovely to hear from people who are intelligent and tolerant individuals, rather than sheep in pursuit of melodrama. Yet again, a day I think about withdrawing from the whole game.

    Have a good holiday weekend! x

  29. It’s silly to hold any kind of double standard. If you’re writing a book which contains explicit sex, you need to tell people that, but why on earth should you need to specify whether it’s m/m, m/f or some other combination? I know what it’s like to have a squick against explicit m/f sex – it’s not something I like to read myself – but that doesn’t mean I have some kind of right to insist it be taken out of books as though it was dirty. I thought we were interested in equality here, and equality means that if you’re going to treat m/m sex as beautiful, you damn well ought to do the same for m/f sex even if it isn’t personally your thing. We’re all up in arms when it’s the other way around – rightfully so – but that doesn’t mean we get to do the same thing from the other side.

    • I’m not a fan of explicit sex warnings until we get explicit violence warnings in books, though this stems more from my frustration with our cultural misplacement of the danger of sex.

  30. Pingback: Linkspam, 7/5/13 Edition – Part 2 — Radish Reviews

  31. I have a penis gun. Water gun, but whatever. T.C. Blue made them for the Butt Pirates IN SPAAAAACE! authors at Outlantacon. 😀

    And you know I’m a thousand percent behind everything in this post, but I’ll say it again: I’m a thousand percent behind everything in this post.

    • There’s a screenshot. I updated the opener with a link. There’s always a screenshot. Which I think is important, because at this point it’s too easy to make it out that Wave is eating babies for breakfast or something. I would rather she left it up so her actual voice could be heard. Now it’s too easy to put words into her mouth.

  32. I read the original piece you reference and I didn’t think on it much beyond a vague disagreement (which would have been a strong disagreement had I bothered contemplate). So when I landed on this today, I knew of what you spoke and had a [vague] point of view, but nothing else…which is totally ridiculous because, this is important (now that you mention it) and it’s about so much more than just romance or gay romance or even books. It’s about pigeonholing ourselves and others, categorizing ourselves into a corner and the general imposition of existing in a universe where people think and feel and act differently than you. You’re awesome for writing this post and I’m a jackass for needing to have the bigger implications spoon-fed. Also, you mention a bunch of new to me book blogs which is very exciting.

    Across the board, good lookin’ out.

    • You’re not a jackass. This is a trigger for me because I’ve always been a teacher, particularly of writing, and I’m highly sensitive to what budding writers might see. I get just as upset when publishers manage to convince authors their way is the only way. I don’t like to vilify people and don’t like how quick our community is to jump into attack mode, but this issue upsets me a great deal. The misinformation is highly, highly dangerous.

      This is why if writers don’t join an RWA chapter or some kind of professional something, they need to find a way to make one by network, and we always must be checking each other and holding each other accountable. There’s so much temptation to take and claim power on all sides, and so much ego in the room. Authors are walking ego soups, and we are too often not exactly well-socialized, as being loners is kind of a requirement. Bloggers have an interest in staking their reputation and their power–and it’s important.

      We have to remember that all of us serve. Readers not so much–they are the served, and we are the restaurants at which they dine. The gay romance community has an extra shade of color because we write about and serve a group of people who have been grossly underprivileged. The problem is that there are traps there too for ego. We can get so caught up in a sense of protecting what we see as an important part of that group that we miss the fact that we’ve started to become a problem.

      Consciousness is important. We’ve raised an important set of issues here, and I think it’s safe to say awareness is now on the table. Now we need to come back to community again, however that happens.

      But don’t feel bad. We’re a village. You didn’t see it right away, then you did, and now you know. We are not the kind of place that eats its own. At least I certainly hope not.

  33. Whew, thank you. I’ve loved the books of yours I’ve read and so it’s especially wonderful to find I agree with you so strongly on this entire issue. Yes yes yes.

  34. Awesome post, Heidi. I totally agree with you about the warnings. Why should we have to warn people that a book contains a specific kind of sex? If it really bothers a person that much, surely it wouldn’t be too difficult to skim or skip a couple of pages and still enjoy the book as a whole. I’ve had people read my first book and state that it should have contained warnings. Not because they were offended, but because other people might find it objectionable. Really, now?

    And as for het-romance writers not disrespecting their readers. Can you say J.R. Ward? I mean, she didn’t just add a gay sex scene, she wrote a whole book about them. Damn, with that much disrespect for her readers, she must have killed her career. Oh wait, she hasn’t? Hmmm, I guess they didn’t really mind the hot man sex so much then.

      • Fandom is big on warnings. There the discussion about warning creeps up at least once a year and people are very divided over it. In the last few years the discussion has moved away a bit from *OMG, warnings!* to a more broader approach where people differentiate between the huge triggers (you can’t warn for everything that triggers someone) and adding tags or labels for kinks and such, because many people argued that things like consensual BDSM or so should not require a *warning*.

        The craziest part was that some people who’d written a slash (m/m) story and were posting it in a slash-community warned for m/m sex. I think in one instance that even kicked off the debate (once again).

        In my fanfiction I’ve always included warnings as a courtesy towards my readers, though a part of me was grumbling about the fact that books come without warning (just try thinking about the long list of warnings Game of Thrones would have).

        But I can understand the approach to make reading in fandom a bit safer for some. And I used some warnings/labels to find thing I knew I would be interested in reading.

        With my erotica stories I add a line that says: “Note, story contains:” and the list the kinks, because I know some readers look at that. I don’t call it warnings on purpose. I might warn for the major triggers that aren’t mentioned in the blurb, but otoh when it’s a story involving vampires or werwolves, expect people to die messily.

        • If the fanfic community wants warnings, that’s totally okay, and I imagine that IS a constant conversation. The problem is fanfic rules spilling into published fiction.

          I’ve never really read fanfic. I have occasionally here and there, but it’s not even close to my roots. I wrote my first three novels based on my experience in RWA and learning at the knee of NY bestsellers and publishers, and I came with those rules in mind. The idea of warnings on anything was very odd to me, and it still is. To an extent I’m willing to morph with the culture, but there are places where I think we need to be careful.

          For many complicated reasons, good and bad, works of fiction featuring primarily gay men as romantic, sexually active protagonists have the potential to be their own animal. As a culture we have placed men on the top of the pile, and it is both freeing and subversive for these men to not pursue women as trophies or partners but to seek each other. It eliminates the heaviness that is trying to navigate making females strong without making them abrasive. It gets rid of the worst kind of sexual politics women face: the ones we force on each other. There are so many, many cultural things wrapped up in each fictional exchange between gay males, written by men or women of any orientation. This doesn’t even touch the issue of our culturally crippled concept of sexuality, of sex as a natural act, as an identity and a choice. We fear sex more than we fear violence. To some people strong women (straight, bisexual, or lesbian) and gay and bisexual men having positive, affirming sex is ten times as terrifying as scenes of gore and murder. THAT. That’s a big problem.

          Romance can’t solve that, and it shouldn’t try. We shouldn’t stifle ourselves, though, and we shouldn’t be self-shaming to conform. If fanfic needs to contain its community, that’s one thing. But a published work of romance competing against other published works of romance, regardless of the assorted orientations, isn’t playing in that realm. If we let that road begin, Walmart can slap warning labels on our books. Amazon might be required to.

          Again–no one has ever said a word about labeling anything but a romance. Why is it we need to label books that are meant to be about love and connection, but not books about murder and destruction? Why is sex and love a more dangerous force? And why is who is having sex with whom in what orientation pairing a point of contention for anyone but the bigots who don’t want us writing anything but 1950s PSAs for proper families?

          • One of the many problems JW has is hat she uses fandom language and conventions without being aware of or reflecting on the complexities and controversies behind those conventions and why they exist. Or why some people don’t adhere to them. Warning debates are always heated and range from “Why warn at all, fiction doesn’t” to “fandom is supposed to be a ‘safe’ place”. But is also very clear that warnings and labels are a courtesy offered to the reader and not something the reader is entitled to (although some argue as if they are entitled).

            And if you (general you) use fandom-conventions, please be aware of where they come from and what they stand for.

            I felt slapped in the face by her whole article, the entitlement of “demanding” warnings for something even fandom doesn’t warn for, not even very triggery-aware writers. The sheer arrogance and condescension towards everyone who doesn’t fit into her very narrow view. The audacity of claiming to speak for a whole genre. The total disrespect(!) towards a percentage of her own readers.

            As a blogger she could have gone and decided to offer a service to the reading-community by reading books, reviewing them and if necessary either mentioning triggery issues within the review or even adding labels that would be hidden behind a spoiler-warning, so that people who want to avoid certain triggers or are looking for specific labels would have had the option to use them. In some ways that is what I see as part of a book-bloggers/reviewers job, to point out things people might have issues with. Or point them towards things they are specifically looking for.

            As a reader there are things I avoid in romances I read and those are more things that I personally dislike or that annoy me than things that trigger me, simply because my triggers are things you can’t really warn for. So I either ask friends who’ve read the book or look for reviews to see if these things are an issue in a book where the blurb might indicate that they are. If I need a head’s-up I’ll go and ask for one, because in the end I’m responsible for myself and for what I read.

            When I write book-reviews (for my other-name SF/F-blog) I often have a section where I mentioned things like lack of women, problematic female characters, problematic male characters, homophobia, racism, bad research, etc. And people who read my blog know that I have a focus on female characters in SF/F and that I will comment on it. But then I also read books and blogs that take me outside my own comfort-zone and that might challenge me to think about things I take for granted, my own expectations and the way I see things. I’m trying not to stay stuck in my little box, but to go outside it.

            In Erotica, which is different than romance, labels are a marketing-tool to tell interested readers at a glance that they might find their kinks explored in the story/novel. Although even romance uses them to some extend, just a bit more subtly, for example by putting certain keywords in the title, subtitle, or blurb (billionaire, werewolf, vampire, bbw, virgin, et.). This way readers already have an idea what they’ll find inside the book. Is more necessary?

            Would anyone have picked up ‘Game of Thrones’ if it had come with an extensive warnings-list? Of course by now people know what to expect of GRRM, but at the beginning the majority probably didn’t.

            After over a decade of having had debates about warnings or no warnings, I can understand where some readers come from, just like I can understand why others argue against them. But, as you so rightly said, that’s fandom, which has its own rules and conventions. Publishing, even a genre that is strongly influenced by fandom, has its own rules and conventions and one of those is that certain things if they aren’t mentioned or hinted at in the blurb, are not specifically warned for, nor are labels beyond things like genre and subgenres mentioned.

            Hm, I just realized that I’m a hypocrite myself. I would add labels and maybe even add warnings (the big triggers at least) on a romance-novel (m/m, m/f, f/f, and m/m/f) but not on any of my fantasy-stories and one of those stories has a lesbian pair in it. Huh. I definitely have to take a closer look at my own reasoning and how much I’ve allowed fandom-conventions to influence me.

            And I can see the dangers of self-censoring which might then lead to labels by publishers or companies. Out of curiosity, do you in the US have age-rating for books or mangas?

            Some form of this is already happening when books are sorted into ‘special interest’ shelves. I would expect to find an m/m romance under romance and not necessarily under gay fiction. I’ve also found fantasy with gay or lesbian characters in the gay fiction shelf, yet not under Fantasy. Just like some books by African-Americans are shelved under African-American and not as thrillers/fantasy/SF/romance/etc.

            This fear of sex is far more an American thing, that I as a European often have trouble understanding. In Europe, especially in Germany violence is far more an issue. One saying is that American cut movies for the sex, while Germans cut because of the violence. But at the same time you’re absolutely right about the many cultural issues wrapped around sex, which also exist in Europe.

            • Addendum: You are so right and thank you for making me think.

              I just realized that you’re absolutely right with the whole warning think only being an issue with romances, especially with m/m romances and not with any other genres. I know several writers who were active in fandom and even argued for warnings and then moved into writing professionally. But their genres are Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, and YA and none have warnings on their books or their webpages. So yeah, definitely food for thought.

              Thank you 🙂

            • It’s worth an acknowledgment that romance is the genre of safety and security, of surprises that only go so far, and to an extent, warnings do fit. However, I don’t ever want them used against us, and I think that’s far easier to happen than not.

  35. That post was incredibly hard to read because of how intolerant the writer sounded. I understand why readers want labels and I like labels to a certain extent (ménage and what not). Otherwise, they are so restricting. Are girly bits so offensive that readers need to be warned? I laugh at how the writer basically used her so-called gay friends to validate and justify her intolerance. I’m a gay man and I don’t run to the hills at the very mention of girly bits. It just showcase how disconnected some are that they think they should somehow protect gay men from girly bits. Although, some gay men are uncomfortable with girly bits but I highly doubt they find them so offensive that they would complain when they read about it.

    I don’t normally think that labels are necessary and in most cases I still don’t. However, I was blindsided once and I sadly felt cheated. Basically, there was a ménage scene and it was integral part of the story but there was no mention of it on the blurb. Most of the time I find labels unnecessary because the blurb says it all, no matter how vague it is. In retrospect, I guess I partly felt cheated because the ménage did nothing to further the story. Mostly, it just not something I want to read. You must think I’m limiting myself but I have no real interest in reading ménage.

    • Oh, I completely forgot about Special Delivery and Double Blind which oddly enough I enjoyed reading. The difference between reading these two and the one I mentioned on my previous comment was the fact that I knew it was coming rather than being completely blindsided. I knew because I read some reviews and because of how Sam was presented on the first chapter. It would have been unbelievable otherwise. Like, I mentioned earlier I have no real interest in reading ménage and avoid them like the plague. But once in a while I find gems and I’m glad I found Special Delivery and Double Blind. I can count the books I read with a ménage scene with my two hands. That said, I can’t wait to read Better Than Love which I hope would come soon.

      • Well, we’re in the process of retitling it. I think we may have a winner but are waiting on marketing.

        Yes, I deliberately set up the opening to Special Delivery to be its own warning. It was the last thing I wrote, and I wanted it to be really damn clear what people were getting into. I know it still didn’t work for some people, and the menage through them–but I figure if someone is sensitive to that sort of thing, they’ll read spoiler reviews and do their own homework. Or avoid me because I’m too risky. There’s an author that wrote a horrible rape scene in a romance with no warning and bad execution, and I won’t touch any of her work ever again because of it. I don’t think even a warning would have saved me, though, because to me it was badly done, not poorly warned. Though probably a million other people found it fine.

        Reading is a risk. There’s only so much mitigation of that even the most explicit warnings can do.

  36. I’m one of those writers who’s written both het and gay romance, and I was disheartened to find there was a vocal (minority, thankfully) group of people who basically divebombed my m/m book without even reading it because I obviously could not write both m/f and m/m competently. I shook my head, but it wasn’t easy to see one of my babies called ugly when the person hadn’t even seen a picture, so to speak.

    Guess what? I’m not the most awesome writer in the world, but I do write good sex, whether it’s m/f, m/f/m (which I’ve done) or m/m. As you’ve said, love is love and sex is sex. There’s no reason any good writer can’t write any sexual combination they want to.

    Thanks for being a sane voice in a crazy storm. 😉

  37. I think there’s a huge discrepancy here between erotica and romance. If I’m looking for M/M erotica, then I’m looking for porn with 2 guys, and yeah, I would be totally bummed to find M/F going on graphically, not because it grosses me out, but because I was obviously in the mood for something that tickled my libido. This is where I see the point of, “You wouldn’t expect sudden gay sex while searching out porn about large breasts.” Fair enough. Some things get us off, other things don’t.

    HOWEVER. if I’m reading an M/M *romance*? Totally different rules. I’m not reading it as porn to get off, I’m reading to see romantic interaction between the characters. I don’t feel like that’s gender specific, personally. And romance, being romance, is probably going to have some sex. But romance also being romance, I’m not reading it specifically for the sex, so it’s not killing any lady boners for me to read about lady parts. No harm done, imo.

    I feel like M/M is so niche, though, that all these things just get lumped in together as one category, and I feel like that’s where most of this is stemming from. Because who else are you going to market M/M romance to if not M/M erotica readers? I once bought an M/M erotica novel that had ONE sex scene, and was non-graphic and completely throwaway. It was clearly meant to be romance, but it sold better when marketed to erotica readers.

    You don’t see this so much in mainstream romance. Romance and erotica have much crisper lines separating them than the fuzzier ones of M/M.

    Unfortunately, this person labels their blog M/M ROMANCE but sees the genre as something that exists for the sole purpose of sexual pleasure, which is obviously wrong and, I think, only one instance in what will probably become a history of misinterpretation of the genre.

    • I get labeled as erotica a lot because my books can be graphic in terms of sex, and usually the sex is an integral part of the plot, but my books are never anything to me but a romance. So technically I would get lumped in with James Lear, but I feel we are a very different kind of story. I LOVE his works of erotica, but he’s after a totally different effect than I am. I want the sex but I want it to serve the romance or I don’t want it there. Or if I’m writing something more fantasy driven, the erotic sex serves discovery or the quest or whatever else is going on in that story.

      But yes, there’s a longstanding problem that as soon as a pair of cocks show up in a story and want to talk to each other, it’s erotica and nothing else. Even my sweetest work has to make sure everyone is 18 and older, and half my peers have warning labels on their blogs and websites even though this is largely due to homosexual content. But then we do live in a country where young lesbians can be arrested for having sexual relations under the age of 18 and men and women in our most cosmopolitan, enlightened cities are beaten for holding hands with same-sex partners or dressing too butch or too femme. A lot of our greatest struggles in the world of LGBT romance are direct echoes from the culture still trying to stick its fingers in its ears and sing us away.

      Which to me means all the more we shouldn’t tear each other down for superficial reasons.

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